By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — The city will receive a $500,000 grant to build a new clubhouse at Nicholson Stadium, picking up a volunteer fundraising effort from nearly five years ago that ran out of money during the recession.
The grant, from the state office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, will be used to build a new facility on top of an existing foundation that includes ADA-compliant restrooms and locker rooms, separate lockers for the boys and the girls teams, a concession stand, a multipurpose room and office space.
“This funding is the first phase of a planned enhancement of Nicholson Stadium,” Mayor Stephen Zanni said yesterday.
Plans for the envision 4,000 square feet of space, separate boys and girls locker rooms, meeting space and new concessions. It will stand along the parking lot on an existing foundation poured in 2009 with labor donated by the Bricklayers and Allied Craft Local 3 and plumbing work donated by plumbing contractor Bill Kannan.
The new building will have space the entire athletic program can use, and Zanni said he hoped to rent the lockers during the summer to residents who use the field at Nicholson to exercise.
“Especially with the high school coming online in 2014, this will be a real plus,” he said.
The existing clubhouse is small and maintenance on the more than 60 year old building has been difficult. Bruce Stella, the director of facilities for Methuen Public Schools, said his crew a couple years ago plugged some holes that were letting squirrels in, but has not had to expend too much manpower keeping the building up.
“It’s long overdue,” Stella said of the new clubhouse.
The existing building, which is about 1,500 square feet, will be used for freshmen. Varsity and junior varsity teams will use the new clubhouse.
City officials and residents tried in 2007 to raise money to build a new clubhouse, but the effort foundered after several years. A new foundation and plumbing were built with donated labor, but the volunteers ran out of money.
Councilor Ron Marsan helped organize some of the donations and labor in the last push. He and Zanni, who then was City Council president, said donations dried up from local corporations and residents during the recession. The grant, they said, was critical to getting the project done.
“Because there have been cuts to local aid, there’s no way communities can do things like this without a strong grants program,” said state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen.
The grant is part of the EEA’s Gateway Cities Parks Program, established in 2009 to create parks and enhance recreational facilities in the 24 communities designated as Gateway Cities across the Commonwealth.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan said Gateway City Parks is a flexible program to improve recreational and community space that can be used for a range of projects, including recreational needs, park planning and construction, and brownfield assessment and cleanup.
“Contributing to the health and economic wellbeing of our communities, public parks provide recreational opportunities for local residents,” Sullivan said.
This year, the state is planning to spend $5.3 million for grants. Last year, the program funded $7 million worth of park construction projects and next year, $6.6 million is budgeted.
The state has identified 24 cities as Gateway Cities, meaning income and educational attainment fall below the state average.
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